You can read the whole thing here, but here’s a taste:
“Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War” is a remarkable achievement both as a work of history and visual literature, providing a broad overview of the complex circumstances that gave rise to the bloodiest conflict in American history, while simultaneously making those deaths meaningful by capturing fleeting moments amid the slaughter in panels so beautifully wrought as to beggar description.
The book is a collaboration by Penn State historian Ari Kelman, who won the 2014 Bancroft Prize for “A Misplaced Massacre
,” about the unecessary 1864 slaughter of the Cheyenne at Sand Creek, and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, whose 2012 graphic novel “Trinity
” worked as both a detailed history of the building of the first atomic bomb and a philosophical meditation on its impact on humanity.
In short, it would be difficult to imagine a creative team better suited to capturing the tragic magnitude of the Civil War on an intimate and harrowing scale. Its engagement with actual history is on par with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s engagement with fictional history in “Watchmen.”
If I still taught visual rhetoric, I could easily see pairing the two books and discussing the way in which, for example, Kelman’s stunningly concise summaries of the troop movements and Washington politics impact the reader’s experience of the pages that immediately follow.
Consider, for example, what Kelman told me was his favorite sequence in the book, which begins with an update on the war’s progress via an ersatz edition of the Harrisburg Bulletin…
So if you’ve never listened to this podcast and have just heard the (true) rumors that we bicker like an old Jewish married couple about Game of Thrones every week — well, it’s time to stop not-listening to us, because we managed to work through the issues with this last episode — and there are many – as adeptly as as anyone this side of Alyssa has.
Basically — if you must listen to one episode of this podcast, this is the one. And we address the questions you want answered right at the beginning too, because we’re polite like that.
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This is a real thing. I watched it all so you wouldn’t have to.
Purchase the new essay collection — Tower of the Hand: A Hymn for Spring – containing essays by Attewell! Because believe it or not even after everything else he’s written and 55 hours of putting up with me in this podcast, Steven has even more to say about Game of Thrones.
The image-based Game of Thrones recapper I mentioned can be found here.
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Cropped so you can’t see that he’s totally flipping yout the fuck off
I apologize for the background noise, but Kendra was in New York City and, it turns out, New Yorkers are very, very loud.
And the Game of Thrones podcast is on the way — as is one about Daredevil. I apologize for the delay, I’m only very behind on everything at the moment.
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Thanks to my new job, I not only have weekends off — I also have money! And one of the things I have purchased with this money — so many of those words feel really odd to type — is an iPad and a subscription to Marvel Unlimited, which allows me to read every Marvel comic with the exception of the most recent six months of publications. Given that I haven’t read comics regularly in a decade or two, I don’t think that’s much of a problems.
Point being, I’m now having many thoughts about comics and I thought “Why SEK, you have a blog, why don’t you write about them?” So I think I’ll make this a regular Sunday feature, starting today with a few “panels” from Ms. Marvel:
Jake Wyatt’s been rightfully acclaimed for his work on this book, but this page in particular is fascinating. At first I felt it was partly enabled by the new technology of comic book-reading, inasmuch as it’s “directed” by an algorithm that moves you from area-to-area within a panel. For example, on the iPad that page would look something like this:
Followed by this:
Followed by this:
Like I said — a “directed” reading. But it quickly occurred to me that I was wrong, at least partly, because the page really is playing with traditional comic book and basic reading conventions. There’s a real tension between the text and the image in this, beginning with the fact that the first “panel” — and I’m using scare quotes for the obvious reason that there are no traditional panels on this page — is in the lower left-hand corner of the page. That’s not where the eyes of English readers begin, so the first difficulty in understanding this page is simply one of figuring out where to start.
Your eye has to search the page, replicating writ small the difficulty Ms. Marvel and Wolverine are experiencing as they try to navigate out of the sewers. But even if they find a way, it’s not going to be easy, as the barely pubescent heroine who’s still discovering the limits of her powers is forced to haul a cranky 300-year-old man with an adamantium enhanced skeleton. How would an artist represent the difficulty of this endeavor?
With words. There’s an up-down conflict built into the text-image relationship. As they struggle up through the sewers, your eyes follow the text down the page. In effect, the images are hoisting your eyes up the page while the text pulls them down — a near-perfect replication of the struggle being depicted on that page itself.
I’m just so choked up, I knew one day there was a chance I’d be a somebody, but I never thought I’d be a FAG ENABLER. I couldn’t be prouder — it’s all downhill from here:
I mean, to paraphrase the Whedon, “Where do I go from here?”
A fascinating article by my friend David Perry, and one I know is of interest to Farley (since I saw him post about this issue on Facebook last week) and which I thought might be of interest to y’all as well. Sample:
Comics matter. They have become the dominant genre for depicting heroism in mass media. This dominance spills from Hollywood to television, toys, apparel, and more. When children imagine the heroic, they are influenced by the major brands like Marvel (owned by Disney) and DC. This puts a lot of pressure on these creators to get things right, and when it comes to gender, they mostly are doing a terrible job.
Every time a major movie involving super heroes comes out, fans ask – where are the female characters? Guardians of the Galaxymerchandising sparked a “where’s Gamora?” campaign. A producer of Big Hero 6 merchandise left the female characters off because, “Eeeww girls! Yuck! Haha.” Fans of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie are complaining that Black Widow rarely appears in the official licensed products. Irritated fans have coalesced online under the hashtags #WheresNatasha and #IncludeTheGirls. Irritated fans have coalesced online under the hashtags #WheresNatasha and #IncludeTheGirls. Even Mark Ruffalo (who plays Hulk) Tweeted, “@Marvel we need more #BlackWidow merchandise for my daughters and nieces. Pretty please.”
Sometimes the sexism is overt. Both DC and Marvel have licensed products that suggest girls should be love interests, not heroes themselves. DC has shirts saying “I only date superheroes” and “training to the Batman’s girlfriend.” Marvel released a shirt showing four Avengers bursting out of the chest and likewise reading “I only date superheroes.” Marvel also released a product line in which a boys’ shirt said, “Be a Hero” and the girls’ reads, “I need a hero.” Let’s be clear, when my daughter goes outside to fight bad guys, she doesn’t need a hero. She is one.
The pattern is obvious – female characters from Disney (which owns Marvel) and DC are under-marketed. The few products exist in segregated “girls only” categories and often reflect sexist ideologies. What was unusual about the Big Hero 6 “Eeeww girls” comment was that the spokesperson said aloud what clearly most marketing executives are all thinking – add a single girl to a product, and boys just won’t buy it. Moreover, while the companies apologize for sexist products, they never seem to investigate the corporate structures that allowed such products to be created in the first place…